GOSHEN — It might be a little too early in the high school boys basketball season to say this Friday’s matchup between the Northridge Raiders (9-1) and NorthWood Panthers (9-0) is going to decide the NLC championship, but it could put the winner one step closer.
“Every game in the NLC goes a long way,” Northridge coach Ronnie Thomas said. “It’s a big game for lots of reasons. A win would be huge for us and NorthWood would love to hold their home court.”
Thomas has seen the rivalry from both a player’s perspective and now as a coach.
“I’ve always liked the NorthWood gym. It was always a fun place to play and a gym with a great atmosphere,” the coach said. “During my playing days Northridge was in Class 3A so we played our sectional games at NorthWood.”
NorthWood, Northridge and Elkhart Memorial all enter this week with 2-0 league records. Warsaw and Concord are both 1-1 while Plymouth, Goshen and Wawasee are all 0-2.
The Raiders are coming off a 58-56 thriller over Warsaw last Friday when junior Pete Smith drained the game-winner as time expired.
Scoring leaders for the Raiders are senior Nate Ritchie 24.5 points per game and Smith 11.0.
NorthWood senior Zach Zurcher is on a hot shooting streak. Over his last three games, he has made 32-of-41 field goals for a blistering 78.0 shooting percent. Zurcher was 11-of-13 in a 54-37 win over Fairfield, 10-of-15 in a 52-44 win over Wawasee and 11-of-13 in a 71-49 win at New Prairie.
Zurcher is averaging 18.0 ppg to lead the Panthers and classmate Jonathan Wilkinson is not far behind at 15.4.
“I’ve watched them a few times,” Thomas said. “Besides Zurcher and Wilkinson, (senior) Will Stueve can score. NorthWood is going to present a challenge for us on the defensive end. One thing about Zurcher and Wilkinson is they can score from anywhere on the court.